In the Springtime of the Year

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Title: In the Springtime of the Year

Writer: Susan Hill

Publishing House: Vintage Digital

Date of Publication: April 5th 2012 (first published September 12th 1975)

Rating: 5 stars

‘’There was no sound tonight from the owls in the copse, over to the left of the cottage, no storring in the trees themselves.’’

This was a very difficult review to write. Even if the words were dictated via a miraculous medium, they would still feel shallow and inadequate to describe my feelings for a novel that made me numb and sad and you know that I am not a sentimental person at all. And how can I relate to the dark moment of losing the one person with whom you decided to share your life? When death tears down the construction that two people built with joy, hope, love and trust? My purpose with this review is to pay a small homage to one of the most quietly powerful novels I’ve ever read.

Ruth is a young woman living in a quaint English town. Her husband, Ben, dies in a horrible accident and her world crumbles to pieces. She experiences the feeling of absolute emptiness and numbness in her own way and her only comfort is her assurance that Ben is always with her.  However, her grief doesn’t meet the standards of Ben’s family or the residents of the village. She’s not loud enough or sad enough of devastated enough. The only person who stands on her side is Jo, Ben’s younger brother, a sensitive and wise teenager.

 

Hill succeeds in creating a moving story without resorting to melodrama or cheap sentimentality. She narrates the numbness of loss, the despair of staying behind, the strange feeling that there is nothing ahead in evocative, poetic, haunting prose. In this novel, the reader will find a number of immensely beautiful descriptions of the natural environment, the cottage, the picturesque rural England. I could feel as if I were there from the very first pages. Susan Hill creates so many vivid scenes. The Good Friday evening with the decoration of the graves, the Easter Sunday, the spring nights, the autumn days are written in a language full of quiet beauty. For me, the most intense moment was the most poetic, tragically beautiful description of a death premonition, of the foreboding of sudden loss I’ve ever read. How can I not be moved by such powerful writing? On a side note here, I never, ever comment on other reviewers’ opinions but I read a single sentence ‘’review’’ by a user who wrote that she/he wanted to cut her/his neck after reading this novel. Well, I say that there’s an idiot in every corner these days, eh? You will allow me the remark because not liking something is one thing and absolutely respectable. Calling names and being disrespectful as f— is an issue I can’t be silent about.

I loved Ruth’s character. Even though I’ve not been through a similar experience, I could relate to and understand her pain. A young couple living in a beautiful corner of the country suddenly torn apart by death. What could be more tragic and unjust? Ruth has a deep inner strength even in the moments when despair takes over. Her dignity and quiet pain lend a haunting beauty to her character. However, I feel that the real jewel of the novel is Jo. A sensitive boy, wise beyond his years, trying to cope with a highly dysfunctional family. A horrible, egoistic mother, a coward father, a selfish sister. Ruth and nature are his sole shelters and he has to turn from a child to a man after Ben’s death.

This isn’t a book that needs many words of praise. Give it a chance and experience a quiet, beautiful study of the most humane of feelings, the feeling of despair and the dawning of hope. Forget melodramatic writers who write novels as if they’re Hallmark screenplays and let yourselves enjoy the power of Susan Hill’s writing.

‘’Τhey used to say that the birds all stopped singing, for those three hours. That everything went quiet, except for the wind.’’

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Beautiful review Amalia. 🙂 I’ve only read Hill’s short stories so far, and loved them mostly because of the atmosphere and beautiful writing, so I’ll try this too. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Marina! ”The Woman in Black” is one of my absolute favourite books and her short stories are so haunting and provide excellent material for discussion. This novel leans much more towards Contemporary Fiction but the writing is bleak and extremely poetic. I loved it more than I thought I would:)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too, I thought The Woman in Black was horror before reading it, but it’s a completely different kind, with the heavy atmosphere instead of cheap tricks! I had a terrible experience reading it. 😀 I know, that’s why I haven’t added it before, but you changed my mind now. 🙂 And, on a side-note, I started watching The Terror, you were right 😱

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And the film version with Radcliffe was actually legitimately scary, even though quite different from the novella. I must have watched 10-15 times but I never watch it alone😨
        Isn’t ‘The Terror’ extarordinary? Exteremely haunting and with a great cast. I haven’t been so curious about a TV series since ‘Taboo’. (which I loved, by the way:)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I loved the film version! But yes, the book is so different, and a different experience 🙂 I watched it once, with friends at dark and since then I never look at the window reflections the same way. :S I may watch it again, but not alone. 🙂

        Yes it is! It’s so atmospheric and haunting. 🙂 Oh I loved Taboo so much! If you haven’t, try Peaky Blinders, a completely different kind, but a great historical show. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I am OBSESSED with Peaky Blinders! And with Tommy 🙂 I can’t wait for the fifth season….
        Are we sure we aren’t twins separated at birth ?😁

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Ahhh me too! And Tommy ❤ And Alphie ❤ 😦 That is entirely possible my dear Amalia! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A beautiful review. I love Hill. She I one of my favorite authors. Your review does her proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Sandy:) It means so much coming from you😊

      Like

  3. gwalsh1985 says:

    I haven’t read any Susan Hill but really want to read The Woman in Black. I watched the stage show and my fitbit kept telling me I was in ‘fat burning’ mode which was just based on how hard my heart was pounding! I keep waiting for the winter months to read it but I think I’m setting myself up for disaster. I’ll try and read some of her other work as well though!

    Like

    1. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to watch the play but the movie version was thoroughly satisfying, even if there were some significant changes. I really recommend her short stories, such haunting writing….

      Like

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